Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany said Tuesday he will not challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin next year, making him the second high-profile Republican to pass on running for the Senate seat in recent weeks.
His decision means that Baldwin still has no formal challenger in the pivotal battleground state.
In a statement, Tiffany said he’d decided to instead run for re-election to his congressional seat but criticized Baldwin for being a “rubber stamp for the Biden administration.”
“After talking with my family, I have decided to run for re-election in Wisconsin’s Seventh District,” said Tiffany, who represents a largely rural district in northern Wisconsin. “I can make the greatest impact continuing to serve the great people of Wisconsin in the House of Representatives.”
His decision to not run is another blow to state and national Republicans, who had sought a strong challenger to take on Baldwin as part of their quest to retake the Senate majority.
Wisconsin is among one of the strongest pickup opportunities for Republicans, but defeating Baldwin, a two-term incumbent and a prolific fundraiser, is likely to remain a battle — even in a presidential year with a vulnerable incumbent president.
Baldwin, who was first elected in 2012, consistently polls higher in the state than President Joe Biden, who narrowly won Wisconsin in 2020. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as “Lean Democratic.”
Tiffany only raised $114,000 in the second quarter of the year, compared to the more than $3 million that Baldwin took in during the same period. And Tiffany, like Gallagher, would have likely run into problems defending his support for a national ban on almost all abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy in a state in which a deeply unpopular abortion ban will be working its way through the court system.
Republicans will see a favorable Senate map in 2024: Democrats must defend 23 seats next year (that includes three held by independents, two of whom caucus with Democrats, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona), while Republicans will have to defend just 10.
In June, Rep. Mike Gallagher — whom state and national Republicans had signaled to be their strongest recruit to help them take back the Senate majority — said he would not challenge Baldwin, saying that he instead wanted to maintain his focus as chairman of the House Select Committee on China.
Attention will now turn to businessmen Eric Hovde and Scott Mayer, as well as former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who have all said they’re considering campaigns.
Democrats immediately took aim at all three following Tiffany’s announcement.
“Tom Tiffany cried wolf about running for Senate but ended up passing because he knows his extremist record doesn’t hold a candle to the work Tammy Baldwin has done for Wisconsin,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson Arik Wolk said in a statement. “This leaves Republicans staring down a messy and chaotic Senate primary with two self-funding millionaires and Sheriff David Clarke ready to enter the race.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com